Bake your way around Europe

Bake your way around Europe

by Stacy Roman
Stripes Europe

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to sample the local baked goods. In France, I adore Pain au Chocolate with a café au lait or a warm, fresh out-of-the-oven baguette. Melt-in-your-mouth scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam accompanied with strong English breakfast tea is my preferred choice to curl up to on a rainy afternoon in England. However, since travel has once again been curtailed for the majority of us living in Europe, let’s get a little creative and bake our way through Europe!

Belgium and the Netherlands – Speculoos/Speculaas

Before we moved to Europe, the only sampling of “speculoos” I’d had was Trader Joe’s Cookie Butter. After consuming my body weight in the tasty cookies in both Belgium and the Netherlands, you can’t beat the original “speculoos” or “speculaas.” A delicious cross between buttery shortbread and gingerbread, try rolling out your own dough at home with this recipe from The Daring Gourmet. Don’t worry if you don’t have the traditional cookie molds, you can cut them into your favorite shapes or emboss however you like.

England – Scones

I’ll be perfectly honest — when I attempted making scones during the last lockdown in the spring, I failed miserably. My son and husband were gracious guinea pigs and chewed them in awkward silence. They resembled hockey pucks more than the fluffy British goodness I’d hoped for. My problem? I worked the dough to much. Scones can be a bit tricky, but the key is to use really cold ingredients, don’t overwork the dough and don’t twist the cutter when cutting the dough. This recipe from the BBC is great start. If you can’t find caster or Baker’s sugar, you can use granulated sugar as a substitute.

France – Macarons

No matter where you go in France, you’ll always find these brightly colored sweets lining the glass cases in windows of patisseries. Macarons are a quintessential French treat, combining a crunchy and chewy cookie base with a jam or cream-filled middle. Although they have a reputation for being a bit difficult to master in the baking realm, with a little practice and patience, you can master these in no time. While it’s easy to stick with the classic flavors, it can be fun to experiment with different flavor combinations. The recipe from Sugar Geek Show is detailed and super easy to follow.

Germany – Lebkuchen

Although the smell of spiced gingerbread won’t be lingering through the Christmas markets this year, you can still recreate the tantalizing aroma of lebkuchen in your own kitchen. This German cookie is a staple and essentially a culinary icon during the holiday season. Made with brown sugar, ginger, molasses and a host of other spices, this authentic recipe from The Daring Gourmet is best to whip up on a weekend, when you may have a little extra time on your hands.

Italy – Cannoli

Forever immortalized in Francis Ford Coppola’s epic “The Godfather,” cannoli are a decadent dessert originating from Sicily. These flaky pastry tubes of deep-fried deliciousness are filled with sweetened ricotta cheese and other accoutrements (think mini-chocolate chips or finely chopped pistachios). While you may not be able to pop down to Palermo or Catania, break out your food processor and fryer and try this tasty recipe from Cooking Classy. Enjoy with a glass of your favorite Italian beverage.

Portugal – Pastéis de Nata

A morning breakfast favorite in Portugal, these sumptuous egg custard tarts actually remind me a lot of my childhood. My grandmother would make something very similar, although we’d eat ours for dessert rather than breakfast. One of the keys to making the pastéis de nata is to use a really hot oven. This recipe from allrecipes.com is an easy way to get a taste of Portugal in the comfort of your own home.

Although it seems as though the opportunities to experience the world have shrunk, think outside the culinary box and bake your way through some of your favorite spots.

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